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Beastly Baptists and Other Stories

Awful Anglicans?  Measley Methodists?  The list could be endless.

I was doing some brain dumping following some reading on theology of history, attempting to sketch out an essay plan as a skeleton, not a piece of prose (since the prose version failed miserably) and found myself pondering the ecclasiastical equivalent of the Horrible Histories series of books published by Scholastic.  Indeed, I think I might treat myself to one or two under the guise of research!


Horrible Histories Annual 2008 (Horrible Histories) (Horrible Histories) 


As far as I can gather, these books work on the premise that (a) history is worth studying (b) most people think it's boring (c) we need to do something about that.  Not, I think, a million miles from what I'm attempting to argue.

So this, in brain dump form, is what I think I'm trying to say...

Understanding Baptist history is really useful, our past is relevant and interesting.  BUT most people don't think so, they think it is boring and irrelevant.  So, something must be done about this!

Let's start with those who HAVE to read it and what they HAVE to read and move on from there... they tend to be people seeking some kind of formal Baptist acceditation and they tend to read 'official' Baptist histories.

A question that arises then, is how these 'real readers' match up with the 'target audience' or the 'implied reader' of the text, and what effect this has.  With two examples examined, I conclude a mismatch that is unhelpful.

What kind of 'target audience' or 'constructed implied reader' might be more helpful?  A model from Biblical studies may be helpful here.  (Iser, Bockmeuhl, others)

Arising out of this model is a question about theological awareness and use of theological and/or 'God' language in writing Baptist history.  Theologies of history, generally predicated on eschatology, give a helpful way of approaching this. (Rae, Gilkey, others)

If theological and teleological implications matter, what does this mean for trajectory and 'plot' considerations (fall-rise-fall models cf Hopewell and others).  How might the story be more helpfully or imaginatively told?

What might make the story more interesting, bring it to life, add colour? (Ahlback, Spargo and others)

And then, lastly, what might be a way forward... Beastly Baptists maybe?!

Answers on a postcard.



  • I was thinking of something like that. More a kind of history-in-a-narrative kind of thing. It's dead exciting history. Just the communication is poor.

  • I came across a book by Martyn Percy called Clergy: Origin of the Species (Continuum, 2006) which might be useful with regards your research. He argues that we often have creationist views on ecclesiological origins - that they appear out of nowhere, rather than out of a particular culture ... there was some other good stuff which i forget now ... but well worth reading.

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